Wow. This month has been surreal.
On Monday, February 24 I woke up with a sore throat. By that evening, I had a feeling I was getting sick. I woke up in the night and took my temperature. It was 99 which is high for me. I emailed my manager I was sick and went back to bed. Jaeger was gone to Mountain View. However, our au pair was already scheduled to start at 7:00, because that is usually when I leave for work, so I didn’t have to get up to get the kids ready for school. We knew there had been a case of COVID-19 in Washington but, at the time, they were saying only people who had contact with people from Wuhan were at risk. By the end of the day I was feeling better and didn’t have a fever anymore.
On Wednesday, February 25, my symptoms had morphed into coughing and a runny nose. However, I had no fever and believed my energy was back so I went to work. I also went to work on Thursday but at that point COVID-19 was starting to make a bigger splash and people were obviously nervous when I coughed. So, I requested working from home on Friday.
In general, my library is not supportive of working from home. However, the IT department is a little more flexible because it is very useful to do some things on off-hours and weekends and no one wants to spend time commuting on a weekend if they don’t have to. However, there are still rules. I can request to work from home for one day in the future. I cannot request to work from home for multiple days at a time. At the beginning of my day I have to send out what I’m planning to work on. At the end of the day, I have to send a detailed report of what I actually worked on. While the rules seem excessive and can sometimes be inconvenient, I’ve never had my work from home request declined. Though, I usually don’t request it more than one day a week.
Over the weekend, King County Health Department reported it’s first COVID-19 death. Library employees started expressing concerns about everyone getting together for staff day, which was planned for the following Tuesday.
On Monday, March 2, I was still coughing and people were getting even more worried about COVID-19. I once again requested to work from home and it was granted. The intranet thread about COVID-19 and staff day concerns had exploded. At the end of day, administration had posted that Staff Day was still on for Tuesday but anyone who felt sick should stay home. I was feeling fine but still coughing a lot which I did not think would go over well around large crowds of people. So, I requested to work from home and once again, it was granted.
My cough had become less noticeable, especially if I constantly sucked hard candy, so I went in to work on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, the King County Healthy department said that anyone who could work from home should. However, my work didn’t support working from home during the Seattle Squeeze so I doubted they’d pay attention this time either. As a result, I went to work on Thursday. On Thursday, the city sent out a memo saying that employees were encouraged to work from home following the alternative work arrangement process that had been put in place during the Seattle Squeeze the previous year. Also on Thursday, our IT manager became increasingly concerned about the COVID-19 situation and said that anyone who could work from home should consider it. Except, this wasn’t supported library-wide yet so we still needed go through the normal process of requesting to work from home. Thus I requested, and was granted, permission to work from home on Friday.
Late evening Wednesday Jaeger’s work had sent out an email saying that Seattle employees should strongly consider working from home. Except Jaeger didn’t see it till he arrived at work on Thursday. Before he left, his employer had increased the strength of their work from home recommendation and said that anyone who wanted to take their equipment, such as monitors, home could do so. That decided Jaeger so he packed his desk into his car to take home.
Thursday is our normal date night. I get off work before Jaeger and usually walk to his work which is about a 1/2 hour walk. There were already signs that the big tech employers were strongly encouraging their employees to stay home. While people were still on the street, there was significantly less traffic than usual and the closer I got to South Lake Union, the sparser traffic became. On my walk, I passed a Girl Scout trying to sell cookies. Almost no one was going past her table, which was completely full looking. I stopped and bought some Thin Mints, even though I almost never buy Girl Scout cookies. I continued on my way and passed an salon that did eyebrow waxings. Two employees were sitting with nothing to do. I had been thinking of getting my eyebrows waxed for a while but I haven’t found a regular place in Seattle yet. So, I popped in and got my eyebrows waxed.
I met Jaeger and we went to eat at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. The fascinating thing about this restaurant is they didn’t appear SDA. However, they used Loma Linda and Worthington fake meats in their food. Nowadays there are so many fake meat options, including amazing choices from Taiwan, that I don’t expect to see traditional SDA fake meat. While eating, we discussed the prospect of both of us working from home for an extended period of time. Jaeger almost always goes into work and I don’t normally telecommute more than once a week, if that. Fortunately, since Jaeger’s employer let him take his monitor home, we weren’t going to have a monitor crisis. However, we decided we did need some additional supplies and so headed to Fred Meyer.
The store was an interesting experience. They had most of what we were looking for but some weird gaps. I had groceries delivered the prior Monday and my shopper said he couldn’t find any frozen mangoes, so I decided to see if any were back in stock. The frozen vegetable/fruit aisle had been decimated. I knew people were hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap. I didn’t realize that frozen vegetables were also a thing. Interestingly, I did pass several bottles of soap.
Once home, I started reconfiguring the office. Our office doubles as our guest bedroom, and up-till-now, may have gotten more use as a guest bedroom. I prefer working from our bedroom because there’s more natural light and the view is better. However, since Jaeger wakes up later than me, it made sense that he would work in the bedroom. The desk in the bedroom was too small for Jaeger’s two giant monitors so we swapped it with the larger desk that was in the kitchen. Both looked better in their new positions so we probably should have done that all along. I surveyed the downstairs office and decided additional lighting would improve it. However, we didn’t have any extra lighting. I tried stringing Christmas lights and it did improve the vibe, but didn’t offer much additional lighting. I tried to convince myself I didn’t need more light but that lasted only a day after which I ordered another light from Amazon. We also only had one office chair, and I contemplated buying another, but eventually decided I didn’t want to spend even more money and settled on using a dining room chair.
I got permission to work from home Friday-Tuesday. On Wednesday, March 11, I went back into work because I had a couple of in-person meetings which hadn’t been cancelled yet. Plus, I had a couple of library holds to pick up which were going to expire soon. Truthfully, that may have been the main reason I went in. The IT office was empty. Eventually, some people drifted in. At around 10am, administration posted an announcement to our intranet saying that they realized people who could work from home should and so they were going to start determining who might be able to work from home.
Our IT manager sent out a link to the livestream of Governor Inslee’s press conference about COVID-19 so I listened to it with one ear while I continued to work. As expected, he announced that gatherings of more than 25 people were now prohibited in King County. However, he also said that schools should start making plans for what to do if they were shut down in the next couple of days. At that, I started paying more attention and messaged Jaeger that we should come up with a contingency plan for if schools were going to be closed. Jaeger was not listening to the press conference but forwarded me a tweet from the governor saying he was not currently calling for schools to close. However, listening to the actual speech, I was pretty convinced it was a matter of when, not if.
Two hours later, The Seattle Public Schools announced they were closing for at least two weeks. Right about the time Jaeger sent me the link to the announcement, I heard some loud exclamation from my supervisor’s office (my supervisor is parent to four school-aged kids). I went to my supervisor’s office, we exchanged stunned looks, and then I took my lunch break and went down to the children’s section of the library and checked out 25 books. I probably would have checked out more but that’s all I could fit in my backpack and spare grocery bag I had with me and I was taking the bus back home.
Our IT manager strongly recommended that anyone still in the office that could work from home go home. So, after checking out books, I headed back home and finished the day working from home. Though, I spent most of the rest of the afternoon in a daze.